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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Gudrun Pausewang
Age Range: 12+
Gudrun Pausewang’s books are always hard-hitting and very often with an uncomfortable ending as in The Final Journey and Traitor.
Dark Hours deals with a different aspect of the Second World War, set in the final weeks of 1945 in Germany. Two days before Gisel’s sixteenth birthday her world falls apart. The Russian army are approaching lower Silesia where Gisel and her family live and they are forced to abandon their home and flee, leaving everything behind. They make it to a train station not far from Dresden after a gruelling train journey where Gisel, her ‘Oma’ (grandmother) and her younger brothers, Harald aged six, Wolfi, 18 months and Erwin, twelve become separated from their heavily pregnant mother. In a hopelessly crowded station the air raid siren goes off and in the crush, Gisel loses sight of Oma, one of her brothers and the remainder of their belongings. Panic abounds as a bombing raid on Dresden begins and everyone scrambles to the available bomb shelters. Gisel finds Erwin and manages to reach the bomb shelter but then the shelter takes a direct hit and silence falls. They find themselves trapped underground with hardly any food or water and Gisel must use all her strength and willpower to help her family survive.
Translated by award-winning translator John Brownjohn, this is an intense novel depicting the end of the Second World War from a German perspective that deals with fear, endurance and hope. Gudrun Pausewang is one of Germany’s leading writers for teenagers and is committed to the struggle for human rights and a better world. An introduction by the author for the English edition that places the novel in its historical context.